September 3, 1945
New York Times.
Yesterday the Japanese, the last of our enemies whose ambitions plunged the world into so much bloodshed and misery, signed the terms of surrender in Tokyo.
Thus Japan's long course of imperialist and militarist aggression has ended. We of the British Commonwealth and Empire and our Allies rejoice at the downfall of our enemies, at the release of those of our fellow citizens who have been in prison, and at the freeing of the peoples who have been so long subjected to Japanese rule.
We should, today, acknowledge again the debt that we owe to the men of our own country, from the dominions, India and the colonies and from the United States, who, fighting not only against a ruthless and barbarous enemy, but against appalling natural conditions, have brought about this great victory. To the men of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, we pay our tribute. Perhaps at this time we should express our intense satisfaction that at long last the ordeal of the Chinese people has been terminated.
Let us remember today that it was the Japanese action in Manchuria that started the train of events which culminated in the World War. The failure to deal with this first breach of the peace destroyed the authority of the League of Nations, in which as an instrument for the maintenance of peace, the generation which fought the first World War had put their faith. The lesson that peace is indivisible and that it can only be preserved by the resolute maintenance of the rule of law all over the world should have been learned in 1918.
The world has since then experienced a second World War, more grievous than the first. The lesson that was not learned in 1918 must be learned today.
Six years ago today, the sirens sounded in London. In those long years, we have known all the vicissitudes of war, the distress and reverses, the elation of success, the boredom of the long continued performance of routine task, the extremities of enemy attacks on our homes, the pride of achievement and the anxiety for our loved ones.
We have seen great cities struck down and devastated. The British Commonwealth of Nations has from start to finish been in the war and taken its full share in every continent. We may well be proud of the efforts of our men and women at home, in the dominions, in India and in the colonies. At no time, even when things were at their darkest, has there been any failure of resolution, any whimper in the face of loss.
We are now emerging from those six years of waste, for from the point of view of the progress of civilization war is nothing but waste.
It is true that in the course of it the darkness and destruction is illuminated by many examples of magnificent courage and selfless devotion. It is true that in the course of it we have seen an unsurpassed exhibition of national unity. It is true that we have demonstrated to the world what is the strength of free peoples. But against this we must set our terrible losses. We have lost many of the finest of our youth, whom we can so ill spare. There is here not only the private grief which lays desolate so many homes but the public loss of irreplaceable human beings.
We are suffering today for the loss of those who died in the years from 1914 to 1918. We shall assuredly in the future feel the lack of those who have perished that civilization might continue. We have won a great victory. We can share whole-heartedly in the triumph with our dominions, with India and the colonies, with all our Allies, and particularly with the United States of America and the U.S.S.R. We need yield pride of place to none in length of endurance, in the severity of the trials which we have encountered and overcome, in the extent to which we have put at the service of humanity the whole of our resources.
We have a right to rejoice, but our triumph will be empty and short-lived if we do not take to heart the lessons which our suffering has taught us and the heavy responsibility that our victory entails.
It was realized by many of us before the war that a contest between great nations with modern weapons of war, especially with the bombing aeroplane, was bound, whatever the result, to inflict enormous material loss on the combatants. Today, at home and abroad, we have seen the garnered fruits of years of toils destroyed and dispersed in a few years.
Unless we can set on the other side a gain in the progress of the human spirit and in the growth of a new conception of human society, those losses will have been in vain.
Today more than ever before, looking back on those six years of waste and carnage, we should pledge ourselves anew to build up a world order in which all nations may dwell in security. The development of weapons of immense destructiveness, culminating in the release of the atomic bomb, has made this a matter not merely desirable but vital for the future of civilization.
We therefore celebrate today, for the first time in peace, this anniversary of the outbreak of the second World War in the spirit of thankfulness. It will be our task, in the closet association with other nations, to seek to establish a world order in which war shall ever be banished.
Our rejoicing must be tempered with a full realization of the gravity of the problems which confront us in the new era which is now opening. This is no time for relaxation, tempting as this is after years of strain.
I recognize to the full how weary are those who have borne the labor and heat of the day, but in any race it is the last lap which counts and before we can rest there is much to be done.
I want therefore this evening to make plain to you some of the responsibilities which we must shoulder.
It is natural that all of us desire the return as soon as possible to civil life of the men in the armed forces.
The Government is resolved to do its utmost, but I have never encouraged you to think that the end of hostilities would mean the immediate release of all our men and women in the armed forces.
I want you to remember first of all that while conditions are as unsettled as they are in Europe we must continue to find large forces for the occupation of the British zone in Germany. We must play our part in agreement with our Allies.
The most difficult period of occupation is likely to be during the coming winter when inevitable shortages in food, fuel and raw material will be disturbing influences.
We must take our share in establishing conditions in Europe which will allow of reconstruction without violence. We have commitments in Southeast Europe, in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East.
These responsibilities fall to us as victors. Our sole endeavor is to enable the will of the people to prevail, and to assist in the establishment everywhere of governments resting on popular consent.
It is a difficult, and perhaps a thankless, task, but we have to perform it. There are, too, our obligations in the East. We have to see to the establishment of order in Burma. There are parts of the British Commonwealth which were overrun by the Japs in which peaceful administration can only be restored by the support, if necessary, of armed force.
The occupation of Japan and the restoration of the territories of ourselves and our Allies will need substantial forces for some time to come. You will realize that we must also maintain at the present time the garrisons of the vital fortresses along the network of our sea and air communications.
There is, in addition to this, the responsibility of the Royal Navy for the task of clearing the mines, of salvage and the disposal of wrecks, and there are heavy commitments for the emergency transport of men and supplies which will be difficult to meet with depleted world shipping.
Thus the maintenance of adequate forces by sea, in the air and on the ground is vitally necessary if we are to fulfill our obligations to our Allies and if we are to see that what has been won in the war is not lost in the immediate post-war period.
Those of you who remember the disturbed period at the end of the last war will remember that one of the prime difficulties of the situation was the inability of the powers which had won the war to provide the necessary forces for the prevention of violent action by sectional interests pending the completion of the negotiations for world peace.
We must not fail the world. We have fought for democracy; we must insure that the conditions for its exercise exist. All this reacts on our situation here; today.
A government has to act on certain definite assumptions. We had to plan for the possible continuance of the Japanese war for some months. The fact, in which we can all rejoice, that it is ended before we had anticipated means an adjustment, but such adjustment cannot be effected all in a moment. The return of our men to civil life is, of course, helped by this event, but its full effects cannot be realized immediately.
This brings me to the question of demobilization. The Minister of Labor and National Service will be making a detailed statement as soon as possible, but I want to make a few general observations tonight.
We mobilized the whole of our resources to fight the war. And in no field were we higher mobilized than in manpower. Statements have been made from time to time with regard to demobilization. I think some of those were too optimistic. In particular there have been statements made about the release of particular numbered groups, and it has not always been realized that the advance release of a single group may entail some 200,000 men.
During the period of the coalition Government my friend, the Foreign Secretary, devised a scheme of reallocation which was explained and discussed at very great length. That scheme has been generally accepted as based on fair principles. It is flexible and capable of being speeded up to any extent that might be decided upon. I am certain that we should make a great mistake if we departed from its main principles. It is quite easy to cite particular instances of where it appears that some individual may be released, but it is extremely dangerous to interfere with a broad scheme on account of particular individual cases.
There is a great danger of producing a sense of unfairness. I know it is very hard for the individual with his own case urgently before his eyes to see the whole picture. It is easy to demand the release of this or that person. But I would solemnly warn the nation that the result of breaking away from a carefully planned scheme is chaos. This happened at the end of the last war.
Many of my colleagues and myself fought in the first World War. I understand very well how the men feel. Although the Japanese war ended only just over a fortnight ago, we have already speeded up the rate of release from the forces. Men and women are today being released almost twice as fast as they were a month ago.
For the rest of the year an average of 45,000 will be coming out every week. I am quite sure every one of you will realize the care that has to be taken in balancing the demand for persons possessing particular types of skill and experience whose services are urgently needed with the general claim that releases should be based on age and length of service. However, we have made arrangements to speed up the releases in Class "B" by offering release immediately to all those selected for this category.
We have decided also to improve the conditions of release in Class "B" by granting them payment of their war gratuities, post-war credits and leave payment in respect of overseas service as soon as possible after release instead of waiting until the end of the emergency.
The payments will be made retrospectively to all those already released in Class "B." I would ask all those men and women in the forces who may have to stay and do routine duty for some time yet to be patient. We will release you as soon as possible; do not be apprehensive that you will be kept longer than is absolutely necessary. We are desperately short of manpower. We want you out just as much as you want to come and we want you back as quickly as possible.
To meet the continuing needs of the services and in particular to release those who have been serving in the war, men between the ages of 18 and 30 are being called up to the forces unless they are urgently needed as key men in vital work of reconstruction.
In particular we are calling up men from among those now being released from the munitions industries. In order to restore employment in civilian and export manufacture and in non-manufacturing industries and to bring services to the 1939 pre-war level, we require an increase of about 5,000,000 workers.
There need be no doubt, therefore, that there is ample room for absorbing the maximum number that can be released from the forces. But I would repeat that it is the earnest desire of the Government to do justice between all those who are serving.
In particular we must see that justice is done to those serving overseas. A review of military requirements is being pursued with all speed. We have to consult the dominions and our Allies and we must also bear in mind transport facilities. As our plan develops further statements will be made from time to time in order to keep everyone informed of the way things are going.
In tackling this manpower problem workers and managements must improvise as they did in the war if we are to avoid unnecessary suffering on the one hand and to hold our own in the world on the other.
We have fought a great fight. We have given our all for victory. Over all the hardships or dangers the future may hold, by the co-operation of people and Government, Britain will triumph.